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Monday, March 17, 2014

These things take time

The final piece of Malcolm Carter's recent interview for Penny Black Music with Mike, Steve and Neil from Hidden Masters:

The Distractions : Interview
Author: Malcolm Carter
Published: 14/12/2013

Penny Black:  Why do you think Island have never re-issued ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ or why no other re-issue specialist has picked up on it? Island have reissued many of their albums through the years that didn’t exactly set the world on fire on their initial release. Yet despite ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ attracting more and more interest over the years there’s never been a reissue.

Neil Storey:
  Well, I heard there was a small label in the US [Acute Records] who were interested at one point a few years back, but that came to naught. I have no idea why none of the so-called specialist re-issue labels haven’t picked up on the Distractions. Ever since I created HiddenMasters, this has been on our to-do list (for want of a better phrase).

Like any label, we have to formally apply to the relevant masters’ rights holders, and while Universal always knew we wanted to work on a proper Distractions set (not just a ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ re-issue), we still had to go through the proper channels. The actual title clearances came through mid-way through last year although, as you know, the project has been going longer than that. These things take time! Plus, as much as this is a priority, we have other HiddenMasters projects on the go as well.

PB:  Personally I think that one of ‘Nobody’s Perfect’s’ qualities is that the music is timeless. It could have been made in any decade from the sixties on. What are your thoughts on why this music that is now 33 years old is more popular than ever?

Steve Perrin:  It was interesting to talk to some of the people who came to 'The End of the Pier’ shows at the Kings Arms in Salford [in August-September 2012]. I was the only one from the band staying in town, so I spent a fair bit of time on Saturday wandering around on my own and running into people who had seen the Friday gig. The main things they mentioned were the songs and Mike’s voice, so I guess it’s down to that.

  It’s down to the songs (in my view). Either they stand the test of time or they don’t. The Distractions tunes are fab. Not much more to say than that really.

PB:  How much input have the members of the original band had in choosing any of the extra tracks included in the new issue?

SP:  We’ve been consulted at every stage. I quite often wake up in the morning and find a forgotten recording or photograph in the inbox.

Mike Finney:  ‘Parabolically Yours’ looks excellent, and Neil is filling us in every step of the way. I am hoping I don’t get to know too much as I would like the surprise element, but as I trust Neil totally I know it will be just what is wanted. Love it!

NS:  Yes, Mike and Steve are involved at every step of the way, from the first murmurings to everything else, really. Nick Halliwell has also been heavily involved too. Alex Sidebottom, the original drummer, has been really helpful as well. And, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Don’t forget, this is their record, set, call it what-you-will. Therefore (and just the same as with any HiddenMasters release), the artist or their estate have complete right of veto across the board. If, for sake of argument, Steve really hated one of the pictures we were planning to use, then it’d be ditched; simple as that.

We’re just the conduit to making this sound and look as good as it humanly can. Having worked extensively with the band during the Island days, it’s been wonderful reuniting.

PB:  Are original producers Jon Astley and Phil Chapman involved in anyway? Who is taking on the task of remastering?

NS:  No, they’re not, but yes, I’ve been in touch with Jon. Phil I’ve not spoken to (yet). Richard Whittaker at FX Mastering in London has done all the analog/digital work plus any required restoration and he’ll be re-mastering the full track-listing. Richard is, quite simply, one of, if not the best analog/digital specialists in the world. He’s also one of the most unassuming people on this planet and incongruously let slip the other day that he was nominated for a Grammy recently for his work on The Who. Richard works with us on all our projects and his care and attention to detail mirror our own.

PB:  Is the reissue just going to concentrate on material from the early eighties or, given that ‘The End of the Pier’ was so warmly received last year, are any newer songs going to make an appearance?

SP:  It’s going to come bang up to date.

NS:  ‘Parabolically Yours’ is the entire Distractions career from inception to present.

PB:  It’s not unusual for bands to get back together now to play live gigs just to recreate whole albums that, in some cases, are regarded more highly today than they were when originally released. Given the Distractions have proved that they still cut it live with the ‘End Of The Pier’ gigs is there any chance that we are going to see the band promote ‘Parabolically Yours’?

NS:  We’re somewhat geographically challenged since Steve and Mike are continents apart, but, while things like interviews about this project haven’t been discussed yet, I’m pretty sure they’ll be up for promoting it. I certainly hope so!

MF:  Steve’s over in the UK next year...

SP:  I tend to think that those ‘recreating the old album’ shows are my generation’s equivalent of doing a summer season in Blackpool; a thought that fills me with dread. Also I think it would only be relevant to do that with ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ if we reunited the original line-up of the band and that’s definitely not going to happen.

Having said that, it was interesting to revisit some of the older material at 'The End of the Pier’ shows, and Mike and I will be around to promote ‘Parabolically Yours’.

There may be another gig or two, but we're not sure – our planning hasn't changed much in 30-odd years.

SP:  Maybe we could do an acoustic radio session or something. We’ll see.

PB:  Thank you.

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